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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   343
telephone rang. I lifted the receiver and heard a rather
husky, manly, and vaguely familiar voice:
"I would like to meet you."
"Who is it speaking?"
"Guards Major Alexei Maresyev."
A few hours later Alexei Maresyev walked into my
room with his bearlike, slightly rolling gait, brisk, cheer-
ful and efficient-looking as ever. Tlie four years of war
had wrought scarcely any change in hiia.
"I was sitting at home reading, TheVadio was switched
on, but I was absorbed in the book an<\ paid no attention
to the broadcast. Suddenly my mother 4xclaimed: 'Listen,
son! They are talking about you!' I pripked up my ears.
So they were. Telling about my adventures. That was
a surprise—who could have written It? I did not re-
member telling about it to anybody. Anrf then I recalled
our meeting near Orel, in that dugout, and how I had
kept you awake all night with the story of my experi-
ences. .. . But how can that be?—I thought to myself. It
was so long ago, nearly five yea^s. But there it was. The
reader finished the chapter and mentioned the author's
name. So I decided to hunt you ug."
He blurted all this out almoi in one breath, smiling
his broad, somewhat shy, Maresyev smile that I had seen
As:always jhajroptjs ^hen two soldiers meet after they
had not seen each other fdr aibng time, we fought our
battles over again, talked aboiM officers with whom we
were both acquainted and had a kind word for those who
did not live to see our victory. As before, Alexei was
reluctant to talk about himself, but still, I learned that
he had fought many a successful battle after our meet-
ing. With his Guards wing he went through the cam-
paings of 1943-45. Near Orel, alter I left him, he shot down
three enemy planes, and later, during the battles in the
Baltic seaboard, he added two more to his score. In short,
he made the enemy pay heavily for the loss of his feet.
The government conferred upon him the title of Hero
of the Soviet Union.
Alexei also spoke about his private affairs, and in this
respect too I am glad to add a happy ending to my story.
After the war he married the girl he loved and they now